28

I work for a large corporate, well-known technology company in the Valley in California. There is a disproportionately large saturation of particular ethnic groups who have migrated here, either from their homeland or from other regions in the Untied States, and have settled across the entire bay area. I want to make it clear that I'm not here to ignite controversy or start a flame war on the topic of any particular ethnic or racial group in particular; I want this brief introduction to set the stage and tone in order to highlight what I want to ask about: ethnic and racial diversity in the workplace.

The fact of the matter is that I am working in a department that is blatantly monoethnic and is mainly composed of one particular race/ethnic group of non-US citizens. If I were to conduct a survey, I wouldn't be surprised to find the ethnic breakdown as 90% of this ethnic group, and 10% everybody else. I personally consider myself a very amiable person, and open to diversity, but really, I feel that I'm working in an environment which outright makes me feel uncomfortable and alienated. I find it quite ironic that for such a large company that publicly celebrates diversity in the workplace, this particular department's ethnic and racial makeup seems to be the opposite of that.

I think it's a fair statement to say that we generally enjoy working with those who are more like ourselves, or at least with those whom we share common ground in some form or another. I find it difficult to establish long-term, lasting relationships here because simply put, the culture gap is so large. Many of the employees who work here are not natives to the country and in many instances, their mannerisms, way of speaking, and even thinking are completely different than what you would expect to see in an American workplace. There are also cases of unprofessional conduct. For example, openly speaking their native-tongue in front of their American counterparts, in very close proximity, during work-related discussions, etc. Beyond that, it appears (though I cannot prove, nor wish to prove anyway because it will open up a whole new can of worms that's not really worth fighting for), that favoritism strongly exists in this climate. For example, certain people of X (majority) background receiving better treatment such as promotions, better bonuses, higher raises and overall friendliness than people of Y background (minority). Again, not provable, but when you're in an environment such as this one, it strongly suggests and appears like that. However, looking at it a different way, you can't really blame them either, they were born in a completely different country and their culture and way of life is permanently ingrained in their upbringing, as it is for us here in America.

I'd like to work with a group of people with whom I can relate to and have some sort of common ground. Wouldn't you feel a bit awkward if you were in an environment that was dominantly one single race or ethnicity? How can I phrase this question in such a way doesn't get perceived negatively, or even seen as bigotry? Is it a fair request, or am I dreaming?

11 Answers 11

20

How will asking to be part of a more ethnically diverse team be perceived?

I'd like to work with a group of people with whom I can relate to and have some sort of common ground. Wouldn't you feel a bit awkward if you were in an environment that was dominantly one single race or ethnicity? How can I phrase this question in such a way doesn't get perceived negatively, or even seen as bigotry? Is it a fair request, or am I dreaming?

To me, there are a few issues at hand.

First, in part I look at your question as "I want to change my team so that I can work with an ethnic layout that I prefer."

For some managers/companies that will certainly be problematic. You express your preference as "more diverse". But if a company were willing to change your work group to accommodate your preferences, would they similarly have to accommodate other preferences? What if someone's preference were "less diverse"? Or what if someone preferred "anything except one particular ethnicity"? Or what if someone wanted "only my gender"? What if they wanted "only my religion"? Or "only my sexual orientation"?

The other way I look at your question is "I was placed on this team. But for personal reasons I want to be able to choose another team."

In some very large companies, that might be practical. Perhaps your skill set and role are fungible enough that the projects won't suffer by moving you from one team to another. But for many companies, that could cause business problems and couldn't be accommodated for practical reasons. I know that in most of the companies I worked for, your request couldn't be fulfilled. Most of them were smaller startups.

Additionally, moving people from team to team for personal reasons could become quite complex. Your reason to be added to a new team might be the reason why someone on that team wouldn't want you there. Thus, you could easily have continual movement of team members and virtually no stability.

I suspect very large Valley companies could find a way to accommodate your request. And of course you only need your request to be accepted in one company, so the only way you'll really know is to give it a try. Only their perception really matters.

Try to probe around the question a bit with your manager. Ask if requests to move from one team to another are frowned upon (without first giving your reason for requesting). Try to sense if you are coming across as "high maintenance", or if such requests are common.

Let the feedback guide your next moves.

Wouldn't you feel a bit awkward if you were in an environment that was dominantly one single race or ethnicity?

I've been in such environments and no, I didn't feel awkward. But I'm not you and feelings are individual.

  • 2
    "would they similarly have to accommodate other preferences?" -- well, no. There's a difference between asking for your preference for more diversity to be accommodated in a company that publicly celebrates diversity, and asking for less diversity in the same company. There is no symmetry and the slippery slope you describe isn't there. That's not the problem, the problem is that the questioner isn't asking for "more diversity", he's asking not to be in a minority! Moving him into a white(r) team doesn't improve the company's diversity, it harms it by increasing that segregation. – Steve Jessop May 26 '16 at 16:09
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    Well, companies don't necessarily think it through very carefully just because they set out to celebrate diversity. But if they do, they'll probably conclude that a company with two departments, one entirely white and one entirely non-white, is doing less well at it than an integrated company, with a sliding scale between. The questioner didn't specifically say whiter, you're right, he said more US-citizen-dominated, but whether diversity is measured by ethnicity or by nationality the same obstacle appears, that "put my with my own kind please" is counter to most diversity agendas. – Steve Jessop May 26 '16 at 16:48
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    ... by which I don't intend to imply that the questioner is anti-diversity, just that his sense of discomfort in this respect is tending to push the other way. – Steve Jessop May 26 '16 at 16:52
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    Whether his company has two departments or two hundred, taking this particular non-US-dominated department and making it more non-US by moving one of the US minority from it and into a more US-dominated department doesn't constitute asking for improved diversity, and asking to be moved somewhere with fewer non-US people is the same as asking for more US people even if that's not the way you're thinking of it yourself. Put it this way, if he was asking to be moved from an all-US team into the less-US team, that'd fly a lot better as an example of requesting more diversity. – Steve Jessop May 26 '16 at 16:54
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    +1 Yeah, I definitely get the "less Indian" vibe from this, not "more diverse" per se. – NotVonKaiser May 27 '16 at 16:16
104

First, welcome to my world. As a woman in IT I have spent decades being the only woman on the team or the only technical woman on the team. I completely empathize with that sense of feeling left out and othered, of missing references and not understanding all that is said or left unsaid.

Second, let's consider a little "type-1 type-2" error analysis. You don't know if it's just a coincidence that there are so many X people on your team or if there is a systemic reason for it, namely that someone above you prefers X people. It's clear you don't -- for example you describe them as non US citizens. I know many people - my parents, parents of my friends - who speak with a strong accent or prefer their first language and have been citizens of the country they immigrated to for over 40 years. Unless you've seen these people's immigration paperwork, you don't know if they're citizens or not. But you want us to know they're foreign and different and hard for you to deal with. And btw, studies have shown that men start to claim teams are "mostly women" at about 1/3 women, and "almost entirely women" as it approaches 50%. I urge you to actually count humans on your team and see if your 90% is literal or emotional.

Anyway, if someone above you prefers X people, and you ask to be transferred away because your team is so full of X people, you will hurt your standing with that person, and you don't know how powerful they are or how far above you they are. If it's just a fluky coincidence, you will still be drawing attention to yourself as someone who "can't work well with X people." Therefore using this reason is a very bad plan. But if you don't use this reason, you might be transferred into another team full of X people, or one full of Y people you find just as difficult.

The solution is to stop thinking about what you want to get away from and start thinking about what you want to move to. You want a team that's diverse (at least in accent and language and such, gender doesn't seem to matter to you, nor are you arguing you wish you had some people on your team who can't see, hear, or walk as you do.) Find one. Talk to people at the caf or at company-wide things, not about "hey I see your team isn't full of X people like mine" but about whatever it is they do. Find a team with a great culture, a great manager, and a great project. Then set yourself a goal to get on that team and join that project. Whether that's getting noticed by that team's manager, learning a technology they use, making friends on the team, or just going to your manager and saying you would love to join the ABC team, work towards moving to what you want.

This will be hard work but it will pay off for your whole life. Set a goal, work hard towards it, get better. So much more rewarding than going to a boss and saying "I don't like [some aspect of my work], please change it." To help pass the time while you earn your transfer, immerse yourself in the experience of being in the minority. Of not always understanding the actual words spoken between coworkers, and of missing some glances, head shrugs and other things that draw on a shared culture you don't have. It sounds like you've never been in this position before, and by examining deeply how it makes you feel, you will be a much better coworker later, to the X people (or the women, or the deeply religious, or the Y people, or the blind people, or the gay people) on your future teams, where you're a comfortable majority and they are the odd one out. Accepting this as a learning experience may make it more tolerable for you while you work on whatever it takes to join team ABC.

37

Well, let's get the big one out of the way first: multiculturalism does not and should not mean that you need to "hit your ethnic quota". It means that your society or company should be open to other cultures, respectful of all ethnicities and should encourage social integration without forcing cultural assimilation. It means treating employees. clients and job candidates equally and fairly regardless of sex, race, color, creed, or national origin.

Having your company's workforce reflect society percentage-wise is not a useful goal. In many industries, it's also simply not feasible. The serious disadvantages that minorities face in education mean that they are under-represented in the candidate pool for most high-tech jobs. That's a serious problem! But it's not a problem that a single company or even an entire industry can solve on its own.

Nowadays, monoethnicity in its strictest definition is something of the past in the Western world. There are no more societies that only feature a single ethnic group. Japan was traditionally considered to be monoethnic but their ethnic minorities now represent around 1% of the population which is already considered polyethnic (though at a low level).

You say that your company's workforce is composed of 10% minorities. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that means that 90% are white men.1 That certainly doesn't match California's ethnic distribution, but does that mean that your company doesn't encourage multiculturalism? Are those minorities treated differently? Do they have fewer chances than their white colleagues?

Those and similar questions are all important ones to ask but I'd say that the answers to those questions are more important than the demographic make-up of the company.

As for how to ask about this: it's fine to bring it up in conversation during your interviews when you're applying for a position. I'd ask about it during one of the later rounds but you may bring it up in the first interview if you consider it that important. It's not strange to ask something like: "What is your company's take on diversity in the workplace?". That's an incredibly open-ended question which gives your interviewer plenty of room to discuss how the company deals with and encourages diversity. You can follow up with more specific questions if you like. Your interviewers attitude here will be the clearest sign you get on whether the company's culture and attitude towards diversity will match your expectations.

Once you're hired, you can make an effort to actively promote diversity or suggest ways for the company to do so, but asking to be put on "a more diverse team" is a very weird request. If I were managing you I'd expect you to work professionally with all your colleagues regardless of their personal characteristics and that includes an all-white, all-male team if that's what you end up in. The same is true for the situation you're in: it's going to be very difficult to raise the subject of wanting to work with "people of your own culture" without your manager having serious doubts about your professionalism and openness to other cultures. I'd sooner suggest bringing up ways to shorten the culture gap, but most ways of doing so don't involve your manager. For instance it's perfectly fine to remind your colleagues to speak English in meetings or conversations that involve people who don't speak the other language. By contrast demanding that they do so in private conversations would be rather petty.

You ask if someone wouldn't feel awkward working in a monoethnic team. I'd say no. I'd feel incredibly awkward if the team was a boy's club laughing at non-white job candidates, making hateful sexist or racist comments or jokes or otherwise showing that they are uncultured boors. I'd feel awkward if I found out that a consulting company I work for has a policy of not hiring African American candidates to please their client base. I'd consider both to be signs that the company is simple incompatible with my values and that I wasn't diligent enough in asking about this during the interviews. And I'd be on my way out in short order.


1 - Apparently this assumption was in fact incorrect. I've let the answer stand as it addresses the most typical case of lack of diversity in IT companies.

  • 7
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and answer. And to correct you - I meant 90% reflects the single ethnic group, and the 10% represents the rest (including white men). I think your answer is solid. Phrasing it in that way can come off as really awkward. Perhaps the open-ended question can give better, and more honest insight into the culture of the workplace. – HiChews123 May 26 '16 at 8:12
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    @acspd7 Huh I guess I assumed too much then. I'll think about rephrasing things but might let my answer stand as is since it covers the general situation which your company seems like the opposite of. – Lilienthal May 26 '16 at 8:18
  • We can even assume that a part of the responsability over the diversity may come before the company, with studies, which when requires high degrees, ends up having some ethnics which are poorer behind the others. It's like saying we want 50%men and 50% women developpers in a company, i had 7 women students for 37 men students that got their degrees in my class so this is just not reasonable. – Walfrat May 26 '16 at 8:34
  • @Walfrat The problem is that some people believe that if you force companies to maintain the 50:50 ratio, the problem will fix itself. It's a big part of egalitarian socialism, which basically claims that every single person is exactly the same as everyone else - no regard to personal preferences, capabilities, disabilities etc. – Luaan May 27 '16 at 10:56
  • @Luaan egalitarian us supposed to be in terms of rights. Not in every aspects of our life. – Walfrat May 27 '16 at 11:02
8

I'm sure anyone who's a member of a minority group reads your post and says "welcome to my world".

Background: I've been in a similar position twice. I'm an American-born white male of Norwegian and Irish ancestry. I once worked for a company whose president was in immigrant from Iran, and where most of the employees were from the Middle East. I never had an issue there. At another job, perhaps half the employees in our department were from India. Communication was often a problem as most of them did not speak good English, and I found a number of problems with these folks that may have been cultural, may have been related to the hiring process, whatever. I made the best of it.

In your post I see mention of only one specific problem: They sometimes speak a language other than English in the office. I certainly see your discomfort there: people saying things you don't understand in front of you. I wouldn't like it either. But if 90% of them are more comfortable in this language than in English, I can see lapsing into it when they get into trouble expressing their thoughts in English. You're now getting a role reversal of what immigrants put up with all the time. I used to work with a Chinese woman whose English was good but not fluent, and I once asked her how she managed in environments where it is hard to hear, like a place that's noisy or when people are talking fast, etc. She said that when she realized someone had told a joke, even if she couldn't figure it out, she'd laugh with everyone else, and so on. i.e. make do. Anyway, I think it's fair to bring this up, to say, Hey, when there are non-Ruritanian speakers (or whatever language we're talking about) present, and you all speak at least some English, please let's conduct the conversation in English. You might point out that getting practice in English is to their advantage if they're planning to stay in the U.S. very long.

Besides that, are there any specific problems? "I don't feel like part of the group" ... well that's too bad, but that's not really a work issue. That could happen for reasons having nothing to do with nationality. "There are cultural differences." So this is a great opportunity to learn about another culture. Try to have fun with it. I recall once having a fascinating conversation with a Hindu co-worker about the pros and cons of arranged marriages versus the American dating system. Etc.

If you really find it intolerable, I don't know what anyone can say other than, Find another job. I can't imagine that if you went to your boss and complained about this, he would say, "Zounds, you're uncomfortable?? Okay, I'll fire 90% of the employees and replace them with people chosen on the basis of their ethnic background to accomodate you." Unless you are absolutely the most vital employee in the company -- the only one who understands the company's secret formula or something -- I just don't see that happening. Conceivably they could try to hire more white people in the future, but unless there's a lot of growth or turnover, it would take a long time to change the ratio. And presumably there was some reason for hiring the foreigners in the first place. Maybe they're willilng to work for less money, or the boss believes they're better workers, or whatever. Whatever the reason, I doubt the boss will see your discomfort as outweighing this. Again, unless you're more important to the company than all of them combined, which seems unlikely.

I gather you're from the majority, a white person of European ancestry. So it shouldn't be that hard to find a job where most of the people around you are also white.

  • Thanks, @Jay! I think your input was sound; I am definitely now feeling the reverse of what many minorities have put up with for a long time. It's true that perhaps I really do need to change my way of thinking and open my mind up to differences in the workplace. I know it doesn't sound feasible to just ask for "more white people", but would you feel discomfort too if you were in my position? – HiChews123 May 26 '16 at 16:42
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    The standard of English used by Indians is a problem in the UK as well since many companies choose to have their call centres based in India. Most non-computer-literate Britons would struggle to discuss a problem on their computer with people with the same accent as themselves, but trying to discuss it with someone with a very thick Indian accent makes it exponentially more difficult. I'm not saying all Indians are hard to converse with, there are many with near-perfect English, unfortunately those people aren't the ones working in call centres. – Pharap May 27 '16 at 4:04
  • @Pharap: Not that a very thick Scottish accent makes it much better... – gnasher729 May 27 '16 at 17:40
  • @gnasher729 I've never had a problem understanding a scottish accent, but maybe that's just me. Come to think of it I've never encountered a Scottish call centre either. Eh, I dinnae ken. – Pharap May 27 '16 at 19:28
  • @acspd7 Would I "feel discomfort"? I don't know. I didn't particularly feel uncomfortable working with Middle Easterners or Indians. I've attended all-black churches a couple of times where my family were the only white faces and while we were well aware we were different, I wasn't particularly "uncomfortable". But that's me. Whether you feel differently just because you're a different person, or whether your environment is different, your feelings are what they are. Even if you were the only person in the world who felt that way, it wouldn't change how you feel. Go from there. – Jay May 30 '16 at 21:21
6

It sounds to me like the problem has nothing to do with race or ethnicity per se, it's that you feel excluded from the team. That sort of thing can happen if everyone but you loves football and talks about it all the time, or if they all went to the same college, or if everyone but you hangs out together, etc. Even if you didn't mind, this situation is not good for the team as a whole. So here are a few suggestions:

  • Talk to the team leader, explain that you feel a bit excluded, and suggest some sort of fun team activity that would help build some new bonds.

  • Is there one person on the team that you feel might be sympathetic? If so, try to get to know that person better (perhaps invite them to lunch). Let them know that you feel a bit isolated and "would like to feel more like part of the group".

  • Reach out to the rest of the group. Ask them for a recipe from their country, or to show you how to play whatever sport they like, or to recommend a music CD from their country.

  • If it seems there's no way to "break into" the group, then you can ask for a change. I don't think you have a right to be in a team with even one person of your race/ethnicity/gender or whatever, but you do have a right not to be excluded. That's what I'd focus on when you describe the problem. You might say something like: "I feel a bit isolated, like I'm not part of the team. I'm sure the others don't mean to exclude me, but they don't include me in decisions, etc."

  • 3
    I half agree with this, but I think cultures from different countries are more dividing than sub-cultures from the same country. For example, if I were in a team where everyone discussed sport, I agree that I would probably feel somewhat alienated, however if they were still from the same country I expect there would be a greater likelihood of finding common ground. If they're from a different country as well, then the cultural differences tend to be much more stark, not to mention the possibility of language barriers. – Pharap May 27 '16 at 4:11
5

Why can't you just say: "Hey Boss, 90% of the department is Indian and I just don't fit in. Can you help me transfer to another department?"

Why would that stir up a controversy?

Whatever you say, no matter how carefully you try to word it, your listener will hear this so you might as well be honest.

4

You have three problems here that you need to address.

  1. You're not comfortable. This is a real problem and you should attempt to address it. Maybe, for you, the only option is a new job, but I would recommend trying to get to know at least some of the people your currently working with. It may not be doable. We don't live in a perfect world, where everyone is like everyone else and there may be some cultural differences that you just can't get around. But the attempt is important anyway. Try with younger members of the team, or those that share a common interest that you know. Play WOW, your co-worker has a giant WOW poster in their cube. Start talking.

  2. Non-US Citizens I'm sure this part will catch a little flack, but people underestimate how much of a problem this can be. This has nothing to do with race. I live in an area that has a high concentration of Hispanic people. Those that were born here, or immigrated young, are much easier to relate to then those that immigrated when they were older. Mostly because of shared/opposing values. I can't stress enough how big of deal this is. You can't expect someone born in another country, raised with a different set of values, and not accustom "the American way" to just mesh with someone that was born here, raised with American values, and used to living in the USA. To be clear this has nothing to do with race. It has a lot to do with many small issues. For example I once knew a German man, immigrated here after school, and was just baffled by the fact that our cars have cup holders. It really bothered him. Were to me, I don't think I would buy a car with out cup holders. It seemed so trivial to me, but for him it was this huge issue. Now what you can do is use this knowledge to your advantage. Learn a little about their culture, and find similarities with your own values. Use those as a talking point. Be prepared to be shocked or set back by some of the cultural differences. It happens, but learning about other cultures can really help you out in the long run.

  3. You're counting people Again, we don't live in a perfect world, but if you find your self counting people that means you have already categorized your self and them, internally, as separate. You can't "count people" without categorizing them. This is a normal thing, it's how our brains work. It's that old Sesame Street song, "One of these things is not like the other". We naturally categorize like things together. It keeps us safe. It's how your brain knows not to sick your finger in every wall socket. We did that once, it sucked, that looks like the one that sucked, nope, not sticking my finger in there. But you need to find a way to categorize people in a way that puts you and them in the same group. Again it's important to stress that we do this all the time. Slackers vs Hard workers. Day shift, night shift. Liars, honest. Noisy, quite. Snoopy, secluded. It's only a problem with we start doing this with race. Or in this case "Foreign, Native". Try to find grouping for everyone that includes you in that larger group. Everyone is in the "Working" group. If you have to go that wide. If you start paying attention to finer details you will find some interesting groups that you do share. This will help you grow closer, at least to some of your team.

Now, to your question, "Can you ask to move to a team with a different cultural layout?" No. Well you can ask, but there is no good way to ask. Try asking for a different shift, or give up and find another job. There is no way you can ask someone in the company to move to a different team because you don't like the ethnic mix of your current team. That's a huge red flag for HR, and will likely end up with sensitivity training, and a "stop being an ass" type response. From the companies perspective, when ever you touch a protected group (race, age, gender, etc.) They are going to review the situation, to make sure that it's "legally fair". Assuming it is, they won't do anything, except be angry at you for making them go though that process. From a company perspective, that's really all they can do. Anything else could have a law suite attached for being discriminatory.

In short, there are some things you can do to be more comfortable, but that's on you. Assuming that people are not being actually discriminatory to you, there is no action to take. Yes your working in a team that has different values then you do. Yes, that is making you uncomfortable. But all solutions, have to start and end with you. Move to another company, adjust and make friends, hide under your desk, it's your call. Whatever you choose to do, keep in mind that, unless you move to a small town, your going to have to deal with this issue again and again.

  • 3
    @JoeStrazzere, I will leave it for now, but I mean all three. There are a lot of countries/areas with similar value systems. They would obviously mesh quite well, but even different areas in the US have radically different values. Your not going to have a good mesh between, for example, North East Muslim culture and "bible belt" christian culture with out a little bit of work. Not saying it's not possible, but it's not automatic. – coteyr May 26 '16 at 17:17
  • 1
    I strongly agree with point 2. I'm British and I am almost certain that if I were to move to America and work in an American company composed predominantly of Americans the cultural differences would be very noticeable and I dare say cause arguments, despite the awareness brought by imported television. After all, being aware of a different nation's traits and having to accomodate someone with them are two very different matters. – Pharap May 27 '16 at 4:00
3

One solution is to eat lunch with people from other departments. Even if this is unusual at your workplace, people are usually welcoming of it. This both gives you a chance to have more choice in who you socialize with, and means that you get to know what groups you would actually enjoy working and socializing with when you try to transfer.

You've got a much better chance of success if you are saying "I want to work with X group, and they want me there," than saying "I want to work with any group but mine, as long as they have more people like me." Plus you've got a better chance at being satisfied if you choose your destination, rather than have someone else place you.

2

If your company is in principle open-minded to these things, and for no particular reason it just has happened that people from one particular group have been hired more than others, then it should be no problem if you either try to move to a different team that has a more mixed ethnicity, or if you ask them to consider hire more people from other ethnicities.

If they intentionally hired primarily people from one group, in other words if that company is institutionally racist, then your suggestion will go down like a led balloon.

  • Even in the best case (they are not institutionally racist and it just so happens that 90% is from this one group), you say it will be no problem to ask them to hire from a certain group, but have you thought about what you would say? "Hey, boss, I wish you would hire some more people that are from my ethnic group." No matter how you word it, this just seems strange. – Brandin May 26 '16 at 9:00
  • 1
    Thanks @gnasher - I think in principle, the company does have its intentions in the right direction in terms of diversity. Large companies often operate as several interdependent, smaller entities. You're absolutely right. I'd really like to move a more mixed ethnic team. But what does it really mean to be "institutionally racist"? We're talking about big corporations, where money is the motto. High throughput, cheap labor from non-US-citizens is right on the dot from a business perspective, so it's no surprise that there's a lack of diversity in tech companies. – HiChews123 May 26 '16 at 9:15
0

Next time you go for a job interview ask to see the office you will be working in, so you can judge for yourself before taking the job.

Given my first sentence, you can see where this answer is going. If you talk to HR or your manager and it does not go well, you may get a bad reference saying you are a racialist; you are also very unlikely to get a positive outcome. The most you can risk saying is that you feel uncomfortable working with people that choose to speak in a language other than English in the office, as you don’t know what they are saying behind your back.

I assume that opening in other teams are advertised, if so, you can trying making up a reason why you want the new job and applying for it. However you may just have to get a job with another company, and due to the reference issue, not say why you are leaving.

And then the team is even less mixed, and the process repeats…..

-1

It seems to me that the main problem is the language barrier.

This can be solved, just learn their language.

Once you have that down, you can start working on cultural dissonance. There will be problems, but all problems can be solved. As you are in the minority, you will probably have to give more than you take, but in the end it all comes down to communication, so work on that first.

  • 3
    ... Your solution is for him, an American, to learn a complex indian language(possibly more - they have hundreds of different languages there), to have a satisfactory working environment... in USA? Yeah no. – cbll May 27 '16 at 13:40
  • Although I fully agree that starting to learn some words in their language could be useful, "just learn their language" is easier said than done. It would take years of hard work to get to a point where you could keep up with native speakers discussing technical things in their language. – thunderblaster May 27 '16 at 13:47
  • Which Indian language(Hindi/Telgu/Tamil/Marathi/Kannada/Bengali etc)? He will have to figure that out first. :) – Jay Mar 23 '18 at 4:48

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